By Mark Waite
Former Nye County Emergency Medical Services Director Brent Jones amended his sexual harassment lawsuit against Nye County in federal court to include allegations he was terminated while investigating the misappropriation of public funds.
Attorney Robert Spretnak already submitted a claim Jones was fired May 2, 2012 for refusing County Manager Pam Webster’s requests to go to Mexico with her or go out on dates with her in Las Vegas.
“After Mr. Jones made it clear that he did not desire a sexual relationship with Ms. Webster she yelled at him, belittled him and humiliated him,” the lawsuit claims.
Jones asks for a jury trial. His lawsuit asks the county for damages in excess of $500,000 for back pay, front pay, lost benefits and compensatory damages for emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and loss of enjoyment of life.
The amended complaint adds District Attorney Brian Kunzi and Human Resources Director Danelle Shamrell as defendants. Together with Webster, they told Jones he was being fired, the complaint states. The lawsuit states Jones wasn’t provided notice of a hearing, though he was an at-will employee.
Jones’ lawsuit claims the three engaged in a conspiracy. He asks for damages in excess of $100,000 from them.
The complaint states: “Pursuant to the terms of Mr. Jones’ employment, as set forth in his contract of employment, the Nye County Code, the Nye County Management Employees Association contract and the Nye County Personnel Policy Manual, Mr. Jones could not be summarily fired for the reason given to him. Mr. Jones was entitled to due process before he could be deprived of his property right in continued public employment with the county. He was lawfully entitled to oral or written notice of the charges against him, an explanation of the employer’s evidence and an opportunity to present his side of the story.”
Another claim states at the time Jones was terminated, Webster openly and publicly stated Jones was terminated because of financial improprieties, namely improper payments within the animal control function. Jones claims those statements were false and defamatory, causing him to be unfairly stigmatized within the community.
County Auditor Dan McArthur last June, in a report for county commissioners, reported expenditures for hazardous material training were being used to pay for animal control salaries. Payments were recorded as stipends under services and supplies through accounts payable, not as salaries and wages on the county payroll. McArthur said it wasn’t a violation of the law, but it was an internal control issue.
Another claim in the lawsuit states, “at the time of his termination, Mr. Jones was investigating a large misappropriation of public funds. Mr. Jones’ investigation stopped as a result of his termination. County officials terminated Mr. Jones for the purpose of thwarting Mr. Jones’ investigation.”
In March 2012, Jones was criticized for proposing a vehicle swap that would give him a new pickup. He was also put on the spot for a proposed purchase of a fire truck from California without going out for multiple bids.
Jones began work for Nye County on Jan. 31, 2005. He claims the period of harassment began in 2011. Jones was the representative of the Nye County Management Employees Association NCMEA at the time of his termination, a union representing a small number of Nye County department heads and management level employees.